Del Potro is a big hit in little and large show

Having disclosed his feet of clay the previous evening, his opponent yesterday made Juan Martin Del Potro look like a true giant.

One of only two players to have beaten both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in Grand Slam tournaments – the other is Robin Soderling – Del Potro had lost a tie-break in the opening set of his second-round match with Olivier Rochus on Wednesday evening. When play was suspended, in the failing light, his disgust with his performance was manifest. He removed his shoes, threw one clean out of the arena and another into the crowd.

Yesterday, he came galloping back on to Court Two to win 12 of the first 13 games. Suddenly the comical disparity in their build – even in his socks, at 6ft 6in Del Potro had towered over Rochus, the most diminutive player on the circuit at 5ft 5in – seemed to be replicated in their tennis. The Argentine polished off this nimble grass player 6-7, 6-1, 6-0, 6-4 to set up a meeting with the No 16 seed, Gilles Simon, with Nadal potentially lying in wait in the last 16 on Monday.

But if Del Potro has found his feet on a surface that had hitherto seemed inimical to his game, then there could be some fireworks in store. Here he accumulated 30 aces and 75 winners in all, and claimed 60 out of 67 points on his first serve.

"It's really difficult for me physically, and for my game, playing here on grass," Del Potro admitted. "But this year I'm here to learn, to improve my serve and volleys. After the French, I came here to practise a lot. If I have a good result, it's better, but if not it's a good moment to improve and be ready for the next years."

Certainly the 2009 US Open champion seems to be groping his way back to form after a period of injury troubles. "After a match, every part hurts," he said.

"But we have good physios, good massages, and I will try to be in good shape for tomorrow. Simon is a very nice player. He played really, really good against me at the US Open. I took all my opportunities for a quick match today, because I don't have a day off this week. I have been playing since Monday until tomorrow, so it will be difficult. But I hope to be ready to fight." Asked to account for his overnight transformation, Del Potro shrugged. "I just had a little bad luck," he said. "Today I'm serving well, and was more aggressive with my returns. All my break points I played more aggressive than yesterday."

And the shoes? "I had lost the set, and once again I had to stop a match for another day," Del Potro added. "After the match I saw the kid with my shoes, and I signed them for him."


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